Jump for Joy Foundation Puts Childhood Obesity on the Ropes
J4JF also helps parents learn about recipes and healthy meals. Professional nutritionists help them learn ways to break bad eating habits. J4JF sponsors walks to raise money for their organization and provide scholarships for students researching obesity. In other words, they are throwing everything they’ve got at this epidemic, including monthly nutrition and fitness camps and assessments. The trick, it seems, is for kids to be engaged. By exposing them to a wide variety of activities, they can gravitate toward the one they are interested in. Once they are inspired, they want to learn more and deepen their interest, and that may help keep them healthy.
At its core, J4JF is about changing the lifestyle of children and their families. It does that through something called Activities-Based Hobbies and Interests (ABHI). The recreational workouts are free and many more are planned. To see a little bit of where J4JF is headed, check out their trailer for an upcoming movie, No Recess.
The concern about childhood obesity has become so high-profile that it is starting to affect public health policies. Consider the recent proposal by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that sugary soft drinks be no larger than 16 oz. This is a direct effort to combat obesity in New York City, where 58 percent of the adult population and 40 percent of the children in grades K-8 have been identified as overweight or obese.
With an annual health cost to New York of nearly $4 billion (that’s with a “B”), the mayor has a right to be concerned. Portion sizes have ballooned over the past few decades. Children now ingest three times as many snacks a day as they did 20 years ago. According to Let’s Move, the average American is eating over 30 percent more calories, more than 50 percent more fats and oils, and fifteen pounds more of sugar a year than in 1970.
Now we have a crisis.
Bruni, the food critic, was able to overcome his childhood eating patterns — but not until later life, and not without considerable effort. Had his issue been dealt with sooner, he might not have had a bestseller, but may have had much less wear and tear on his body. Seventy percent of obese children become obese adults. Michelle Obama knows that focusing on the issue of obesity and correcting the tendency early is where the focus needs to be. As children become adults their weight can affect more than their health. According to a 2009 article in Obesity by Rebecca Puhl and Chelsea Heuer, weight bias is equivalent to racial bias both in terms of actual percentages and negative impact. Inequities in employment, health care, and education are the result of negative stereotypes that the obese are lethargic and sluggish, undisciplined, unmotivated, noncompliant and incompetent.
A vicious cycle exists where the weight-bias reactions toward obesity actually contribute to maladaptive eating behavior among obese individuals — particularly children — while increasing vulnerability to depression and lower self-esteem. Weight bias actually helps create the very problem it is reacting to. This upward spiral of weight bias, obesity, and deaths from obesity keeps escalating. In fact, when it comes to weight bias, no effective intervention program has been shown to sustainably change the stereotypes and stigma.
Because of these stereotypes, people who struggle with obesity are victims of social injustice, unfair treatment and diminished well-being and quality of life. Our attitudes are not improving. In the last decade, the review reports weight bias has increased over 66 percent. Add to this the World Health Organization estimate that obesity will be the No. 1 cause of death worldwide by 2020.
Now we have an epidemic.
The media makes matters worse. Overweight and obese characters are stigmatized in TV and the movies, and likewise in children’s media including TV, videos and cartoons. Not long ago the New York Times reported on a study in the American Journal of Public Health which showed that it wasn’t the amount of television children watch that predicted obesity, it was the number of commercials a child was exposed to. The more commercials, the higher the risk for becoming obese. The reason is simple: Ads work. The more commercials kids watch, the more ads they see for fast food, sweetened cereals, and junk food.
Devices with screens — cell phones, video games, mp3 players, computers and the endless availability of yet another game-based app — also contribute to children’s inactivity. These devices now take up 7.5 hours a day. That’s not a misprint: Children from ages 8 to 18 spend nearly a third of their day not moving. Gym classes, team and intramural sports are the first to be cut during a budget crisis. Yet statistics show what we don’t deal with now we pay dearly for later, not only with our money, but also with well-being and shortened lives.
If you would like to learn more about The Jump for Joy Foundation click here. They have some tips for families in honor of September, National Childhood Obesity Month. As a nation we are not going to change everything overnight, but if we follow J4JF’s lead we can begin this month by experimenting with three ways families can become more aware:
- Try one new recipe a week this month that aims to have fewer calories and healthier foods. For ideas and inspiration click here.
- Pick one of the activities from this list as a family and initiate one of them each week as well.
- Learn what you can do to get active in your community
Tomasulo, D. (2012). Jump for Joy Foundation Puts Childhood Obesity on the Ropes. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 26, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/09/05/jump-for-joy-foundation-puts-childhood-obesity-on-the-ropes/